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ECG: Tale of an Energy Monopoly

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If you’re a Ghanaian then chances are you’ve heard these phrases before:

  • Electricity Come and Go
  • Either Candle or Generator
  • Energy Crisis of Ghana
  • Ela-TDC (yes it’s its own political party and won -0.05% of the Ghanaian populace over)
  • Dumso Dumso

Here’s the thing.  Someone let their pet monkey loose in the Electricity Corporation of Ghana. This is not a joke.  There’s someone who lets their monkey onto the premises and this little bugger keeps messing with the switches.  How else could you possibly explain the disco day and night fever that has gripped the Nation?

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m talking about  POWER OUTAGES!

I live in a part of Accra, where the electricity is virtually always out. At least four days a week, we experience some sort of maintenance or cable fault. A few years ago, they claimed we had a busted transformer and During Christmas week, we were out for five days straight.

It’s become normal for Ghanaian homes to have backup generators now.  Those things come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.  I’ve got a medium sized one which handles lights and a few TVs but definitely not my freezers. Some homes have humongous ones so they can continue to use their heaters, air conditions etc but what is important to note about all types of generator users is, it’s an additional cost to a home or business user. If I pay GHC150 a month for electricity and about GHC 80 for water (meanwhile I haven’t had water in over 6 months. That’s a post for another day) oh and tack on about GHC 100 for Internet (includes what I tack on to my phone and iPad) well, that’s over GHC300 from my meager salary going into utilities. When you throw in the cost of maintaining a car, fueling it and clothing….I pity the average Ghanaian’s pocket.

The point I’m trying to make is, what we’re paying for utilities is bad enough without having to tag on additional costs for fueling our generators. My genset will go for 8 hours on about GHC20 of petrol but egads! What of the poor sods who invest in larger ones? How much extra do they have to pay in addition to the about GHC400 that ECG collects from them monthly?

Last year, the entire country had their electricity rationed. Every couple of days, an area would go off for about 12 hours and this went on for months. The nation dubbed it “Dumso Dumso” which loosely translates into “switch on, switch off”. It became a bone of contention during the just ended elections, with people seemingly forgetting that such situations occurred even during the previous administration.

Well, all this “dumso dumso” nonsense was right down my alley. My area (near Kwabenya) is used to constant power outages and we actually welcome the scheduled outages.  When I know I’m to go off at 6am, I make sure to iron and prep everything and head out of the house early. And if I know I’m going off at 6pm, then I make sure to charge my phone and laptop in town and grab some candles so I can read a bit before bed.

Our problem is with the unscheduled outages, like what we’re experiencing now. Our power went out on Friday night. I’m typing this up on my IPad which is quickly draining of power at 8 am on Sunday, January 20. The problem? Supposedly a high tension cable fault somewhere in Kwabenya. We were promised we’d get out power back yesterday but as of this morning, my kontonmire with mutton and smoked mackerel is going bad. My dogs will no doubt be feasting on the large pot I made before the day is done. THIS is the real “dumso dumso”.  This is a real case of either candle or generator.

Calls to ECG (who have got really nice customer service agents but still haven’t got the solution bit down pat) only serve to infuriate me further.  “Oh have you reported the fault?” “Yes Madam, we did say 3pm but our engineers are still in the field and do not have an idea when they will be done.” “Please Madam, what’s an ETA?”

This morning, after being asked again whether or not I’d made a report and if it was my whole area that was off, I blew up. I’m an extremely impatient person and it doesn’t take long to get me to let loose the hounds of hell. “This is unacceptable” I said, ” I just told you my power has been out since Friday and you act as though you do not know about the problem. Does your system not tell you Kwabenya has been off since then?” The poor agent had to hush up and listen while I told him, “add this to the new report. Tell your people that if they were another service like my ISP, I would have switched to someone else by now. You people have a monopoly on electricity in this country or else you’d give us value for money.  How can you keep taking us out for 3, 4, 5 days and expect us to accept it? My food is going bad! Will you pay for it?”

Now I’m supposed to call in a few more minutes to see if the faults men have given a new estimated time for power to be restored.

Thing is, if we had multiple power companies, which really should be the case then perhaps we’d have better service. I don’t believe that state enterprises should be sold to private bodies (as in the case of Ghana Telecom to Vodafone). I believe that private institutions should give healthy competition to government bodies. We should have a choice. I should be able to make the choice to go off the national grid, if I want.  Perhaps the government should subsidize alternate energy sources for Ghanaians who want to go green.  I would invest in an affordable solar unit for my home and much as my folks hate the idea of biogas, I sure as heck would use my home sewage to power my house (they will NOT use it to cook no matter what I say).

Point I’m making is, if the government knows that Gridco, ECG etc cannot handle the pressure of powering up the nation (and yet they sell power to other countries) then they should make it easier for communities and individuals to generate their own power. We’re sick of all of this.

The next election, I am voting for whoever can give me uninterrupted power supply. Do you hear that, Hassan Ayariga? Promise me “domesticated” electricity and you will have my vote.

For now, I’m entreating whoever that monkey belongs to, keep that bugger under lock and key. He’s been playing havoc for far too long.

~Daixy~

Comments

comments

3 Comments

  1. Three cheers for you, gal. You said it. Lapaz goes off almost every other day, and today twice already, and I am waiting for an outage this evening – despite AFCON!

    January 20, 2013
    |Reply
  2. Oh Dear Nina, my partner in crime. ECG is obviously punishing us for reading. My power returned late this afternoon and I hope it stays on for a while. When we had the load shedding in effect, I could go days because we’d have maintenance in the day and load shedding at night. Oh and then there’s days when the lights flicker on and off and I fear something’s gonna blow up or short circuit.

    I hope you managed to catch AFCON. I’m really sad for Ghana but hopeful for the future.

    January 20, 2013
    |Reply
  3. Agreed. It was ridiculous the amount of times power would go out while I was there. And worst, they acted, as you mentioned, like they didn’t even know there was a problem. And honestly, what percentage of the population can actually afford a generator. The lack of any form of urgency to address the problem is troubling. But once you find that monkey, send him my way. Still want one as a pet!

    January 22, 2013
    |Reply

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